Archive for the ‘Business & Work’ Category

Changing our ways

It has been a busy time here in Redwood.

We were so lucky to have so many orders for hams and pork pre-Christmas which made the weeks leading up to Christmas crazy, crazy busy.  As we had orders to go to every corner of the country, we decided to implement one of the changes we had come up with in our review of tactics.

There was no way we could physically have managed to do all the deliveries ourselves.  Orders had to get to Dublin, Dundalk, Donegal, Waterford, Wexford – practically every corner of the country.  We brought in couriers.  It worked.

Pork orders ready for shipment

Pork orders ready for shipment

There were hic-cups which annoyed and frustrated us at times.  We’ve learned lessons from the experience.   Next year Christmas deliveries will go out earlier – rather than leaving them to Christmas week!

Fastway (the courier firm) have been extremely helpful in working with us to resolve some of the frustrations we experienced.  Well done to them on responding to customers issues.

Working with a courier firm means that folks can get their pork quicker!  🙂

Our customers no longer have to wait until we have a few orders in the one area – we can (provided we have the stock) ship to them within a couple of days!

Many orders have already gone out this week…. we’re back to shipping!

I must tell you…. we thought we were so organised with the orders before Christmas – all done and dusted by 22nd December.  Aaaah, BUT, we hadn’t factored in the customer who arrived unannounced at 8 pm on 23rd looking for his supply of bacon, sausages and pork for Christmas!  He was lucky we had some left!

Then once the ‘work’ side of things were sorted – the visitors arrived!

From 21st December for 18 days, we had visitors every single day.  Eleven different people came and went.

Lily (A Mexican Cook in Ireland) cooked this delicious stuffed pork.

Lily (A Mexican Cook in Ireland) cooked this delicious stuffed pork.

We ate a lot.  We cooked.  We drank.  We talked. We laughed.  We played boules (in between the rain showers).  We got the occasional walk in.

Yes, in January, the crazy Mexican girl was walking barefoot on the beach!!!

Yes, in January, the crazy Mexican girl was walking barefoot on the beach!!!

I washed, I ironed.  I am still ironing.

So apologies for the long gap since last post…. but I think you’ll understand!

How was your Christmas and New Year?

Happy 2013! Hope it brings lots of good things your way.

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It has been a difficult few weeks here in Redwood.

As you know Alfie was in hospital for a couple of weeks, followed by more weeks on medication.  Then to compound it all I got struck by some bug…. nothing serious just days of discomfort and total exhaustion.

All of this forced us to think about what we are doing here.  Owing to human illness our ‘production’ has dropped dramatically this year which naturally means no sales.  You can’t sell what you don’t have!

Keeping pigs is not difficult, but it is physical.

While Alfie was in hospital he worried about me out feeding the pigs on my own.  I don’t mind feeding them, it is jsut heavy work carrying meal and water to them.  However, there are other aspects that I just can’t manage on my own…. like loading them onto a trailer!  And, in fact, while I can drive forward with a trailer on the car, do NOT ever ask me to reverse the car with a trailer on.  Co-ordination goes out the window!

So this past couple of weeks, we’ve had to seriously consider whether to continue on with what we are doing.  Can we afford to keep going?  No sales, means a serious drop in income and there are still many mouths to feed.

The decision, after much tossing and turning of sleepless nights, and churning out different ideas and plans, is that we will fight back.

It is going to take time.  We have, we hope, come up with a scheme that will kick into place should illness strike again.

So we are back working on getting pork to people.  Four pigs loaded into the trailer this evening for their final journey tomorrow!

Perky has had her new litter.

The Gloucester Old Spots are growing nicely.

And just when we had made the decision to continue, look what arrived in the post!

McKenna's Guides Best in Ireland 2013

Thank you so so much to John and Sally McKenna – you have no idea how timely this was!  For non-locals John and Sally produce the best guides to food and places to eat and stay in Ireland – don’t travel without their guide.  To have our pork included as a ‘Best in Ireland’, well that is such an honour.

So we’re back, and we’d be delighted to take your orders!

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I’ve written here before about our delivery runs.  And, yes, we are still travelling all over the country with pork deliveries.

I recently drew the straw to do a run to Cork and Kerry.  It was a long drive, but an enjoyable one all the same.

Sometimes I just love being in the car on my own…. listening to the music I like and ‘singing’ along at the top of my voice too!  Not something you’d do with company 🙂

I’ve said before that we do the delivery runs ourselves so that we get to meet our customers.  However, we also get to see lots of this beautiful country of ours.  The disadvantage, however, when you are doing the deliveries is that you don’t have time to stop and admire.  You are constantly aware of time to deliver and the meat in the car.

Some of the highlights of my trip to Cork and Kerry – besides the wonderful scenery.  Mind you I am not sure allowing Mrs. SatNav to guide me was my wisest decision – she seemed to take me a very peculiar route!

  • Sometimes you come across place names that you just cannot figure out how to pronounce them, or what the origin of the name is…. there’s a place called Bweeng – so how’s that pronounced?
  • I know I was aware that there was a Gaeltacht area in West Cork, but I actually drove through it this time around.
  • I spotted some Zwartbles sheep on a hillside somewhere along the way – thought Suzanna over at Zwartbles Ireland would be proud to know that because of her I can now recognise them 🙂
  • I spotted Mannings Emporium which I only know via twitter!!!
  • You can’t imagine my excitement when I spotted Future Forests!  I have read so many articles about them…. and yes, it does look just like this.  Oh, how I wished I could have stopped for a couple of hours browsing.
  • And then…. who knew… did you know such a business existed?  Imagine somewhere on a tiny road in Cork or Kerry there is a toy soldier manufacturer!  I am impressed.
    Toy Soldier Manufacturer

This country of ours is truly amazing…. the scenery, the people, the ideas!

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Regular readers here will know that here at Oldfarm use what social media tools we can to promote our pork business.

We have the website, the facebook page, and in fact two twitter accounts.  I’ve set up a YouTube channel – which I need to build on.  I’ve set up Pinterest and Instagram accounts which I am still grappling with, more from the point of view of finding the time to keep all balls in the air!

Without these tools I don’t know how we would promote Oldfarm Pork…. we don’t have a marketing budget!  I have written and spoken before about how we use these tools.

However, yesterday, wearing a different hat to pig farming, I was asked to look at other small businesses in the Midlands and their web presence.

The results, to me anyway, were staggering!

27 companies looked at….. ranging from 1 person to 10/12 employees.

  • 10 had no website, or web presence, of any description
  • 8 didn’t even have an email address
  • 8 had a Facebook page
  • 5 had a Twitter account
  • None were using YouTube or Pinterest
  • Only 4 were using website, facebook and twitter

Now is it me, or is this amazing in 2012 for small businesses not to be using free tools to promote their business?

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It is a comment we use often here in Redwood!  We need to sell the sizzle!  You know what we mean – we know that the pork and bacon we produce is good, but how do we convince the customer?  Well, by letting them experience the sizzle!

In order to do that we are always trying to dream up new approaches…. so at this point I ought to say a huge THANK YOU to Jo at Caragh Nurseries for agreeing so readily when I approached her with one of my wine induced brain waves!

Jo and her husband, Ian, run Caragh Nurseries just outside Naas.  And my idea was simple really – they have the space, we have the pork, we have friends Caroline and Liam from A Room Outside who have the Big Green Eggs.  The three of us get together and ‘share the sizzle’!

Consultations started – we had to make sure not to clash with any rugby dates – and a date was set – 25th March “with a bit of luck the weather might have settled by then’.

Who would have believed how glorious a day it would be?

The sun beamed down on us!  The glasshouses were just too hot to be in!  I got sunburnt!

Getting the bbq's going.

Unpacking the cars, getting the Eggs set up and lit…. a bit of chaos before the calm.

Group chatting around Big Green Egg

Chatting and sharing the sizzle and fun of the Big Green Egg.

Dog with bone

Jo’s dog, Max, became our new best friend!  He waited patiently for that bone which he duly took away to hide somewhere!

sausage roll on bbq

A different take on a sausage roll!  Everyone loved the sausages tho!

Jo hiding behind counter

Jo – hiding behind the counter of their amazing ‘train carriage’ coffee shop!

The Coffee Shop

Crowds at other stalls

The people came and enjoyed the sunshine and the stalls.

Lots of plants

I admired the colour of Jo’s pots…. they are to match their logo!  Don’t you love the colours?

Pink watering can

I was completely jealous of Jo’s watering can…. I definitely need one of these!  My green ones are very very boring!

Dolphins on sticks

As the embers were dying down on the Big Green Egg – Liam was doing a roaring trade in toasting marshmallow dolphins! 🙂

Thanks again to Jo and Ian at Caragh Nurseries.  To Caroline and Liam from A Room Outside who travelled with their Big Green Eggs from Limerick.

Thank yous to all who came along.

And thank you to all the other lovely stall holders we met yesterday.

Together it all worked to make it a lovely day!

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I am sure it must happen to others…. you haven’t been somewhere for an age, and then suddenly you are there so may times!

That is what has happened here.  We had not been to Limerick since November – then we’ve been twice in the past two weeks!  Our last trip there was this past week when we travelled for the Foodies Expo.  We had heard about it through our local County Enterprise Board, so figured we’d give it a try.

As it was almost like a day off, we headed away early and stopped at La Cucina for lunch on the way.  This was only our third attempt to get to La Cucina and our luck was in this time round!  We managed to have a very quick lunch there – it would have been nice to have had more time to sit and chill (and maybe even have a glass of wine).  Next time!  Alfie declared the pizza excellent – even better than his own – now that’s some praise!  Pizza

Italia Ciabatta

We did come away with a few goodies tho!  I am waiting patiently for my rocket to grow so I can have a nice Bresaola Salad. 🙂

Bresaola and Salami

Then it was off to the exhibition.

We weren’t sure what to expect but well done to the organisers. It was really worth the trip.  For us, it proved to be a great opportunity to network and meet with various suppliers.

Had a couple of long chats with lots of different traders – but one of the most interesting (for me anyway) was chatting with Muireann from North Tipperary Food Works.  A clever idea they have there…. an HSE fully approved kitchen that food producers can rent by the hour!  No excuse if you live in the area (near Rearcross) – the rent is nominal (€15 ph) and the kitchen has full approval.

There was a ‘break out’ section too, where interesting talks were going on.  We had hoped to catch Peter Ward’s (Country Choice) talk but just as Peter was starting we bumped into old friends who we hadn’t seen in 10 years!

Ireland really is such a small country! You really never know when you are going to bump into people.

When we’d last met Frank and Grainne it was probably over a late glass of wine in Malahide.  So we had a very very quick catch up with them!  Good to hear that they’ve now got a restaurant The Beach House in Bray – which of course we will have to go visit sometime.

We did get to hear Sully of Cully & Sully talk.  Sully was kind enough to share his thoughts on costing and cashflows – and tell us of their experience and lessons learnt.

Unfortunately the feeding routine back home meant we couldn’t stay about to hear Bobby Kerr speak.

Again well done to all involved.

There should be more of these type of events around the country.  There was such a positive vibe for the afternoon.  If you see something like this in your area get along to it.

Well worth a second trip to Limerick.


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What is ‘local’?

There’s been so much chat and talk about supporting local economies by buying local this Christmas – which is wonderful.  BUT it brings about the question – what is local?  Do you have thoughts on this?

So I’ve been thinking about it in our own context.  We have totally reduced our expenditure (like so many others) this Christmas, but what we have been spending we’ve tried to do as ‘local’ as possible.

Do you classify local as being within a certain radius?

If I was to set a, say, 4, mile limit to my shopping I’m afraid those of you getting gifts would not be getting much!  We have 2 tiny corner shops within that radius – one 2 miles away and the other 3 miles away – not even sure you’d get a box of chocolates in either!

Spread the net a little further – say 10 miles – and the choice improves somewhat.  We can get as far as Portumna or Birr then, and as in most years since we moved year, we have managed to do the majority of or Christmas shopping in Birr this year.

We’ve also combined some shopping with delivery runs.

I’ve roped my niece in Dublin into running a few errands for me (thank you!) which she has done in her locality.

So I guess for us ‘local’ constitutes nationwide really.

And bearing in mind that we want people to buy our pork, we would have to encourage people to think of local as nationwide.  (I would hate to be relying on our very very small population base here to sustain our business!)

Wherever you shop if you are contributing to your local economy, buying from small independent stores, or direct from your local producer/farmer, it is helping to sustain jobs and revive our so badly damaged economy.

Shop Local poster

Thanks to Chef Wade Murphy for the photo.

It may be late in the day to be saying it, but I know lots of people will be rushing out to stock up for the weekend…. well, as you do, try to think of the small local retailer/producer/supplier who is probably relying on these few weeks in December to help him/her survive!

It doesn’t matter where in the world you are…. shop local!

Happy shopping!

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I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked – why?

Why do we do the delivery runs ourselves?

Would it not be better/cheaper to have someone else (courier) do the job for us?

And yes, we have looked at the various options.  But in the end, you know what, we get to meet our customers!  It is as simple as that!

We have over the past couple of years built up our customer base.  Our customers understand when we say that we do not ‘kill’ until we have enough orders and the pig is ready for eating!  Then once the meat is butchered and ready to go, we have a frantic couple of days of delivering the fresh meat to everyone.

Last month we had 3 pigs to deliver so that was pretty hectic…. but look at the beautiful places we got to!

One day it was to various points around counties Limerick and Cork… culminating with a delivery to Blair’s Inn in Blarney and The White Sage Restaurant in Adare.

Front of Blair's Inn, BlarneyFront view of White Sage Restaurant, Adare

Some day we will have time to stop and enjoy some food with these guys! The menus are amazing!

And since those deliveries we’ve had people call us who live near us, who came across our name on the menus at both these venues!  Small world, etc!

The following day it was off to Dublin to deliver to lots of families around the city and to meet their dogs (who also enjoy a pork bone or two!)…. we met Sheeba, Storm (who’s particularly found of good bones) and Oscar – all beautiful friendly dogs.

The last stop that day was at Seagrass in Portobello and look what Sean offered us with a cup of tea! Wow!  It all tasted as good as it looks!  If you haven’t been, you need to go there, seriously!

Platter of tapas from Seagrass Portobello

Yesterday, it was a delivery run to Galway.  This time as we were closer to home we took things a little bit easier and stopped for two separate cups of tea and chats!  I’m telling you if we were to stop for a ‘cuppa’ with all our customers, we might never get home!

But that’s why we do what we do… so that we can meet and get to know our customers!

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It was an amazing experience – my first ever TV appearance. Yes, I was on TV this past week.  How it happened goes back to my inability to say ‘no’ when people ask me to do something! 🙂

I did a course on Entrepreneurship, Strategic Planning & Marketing in October 2009, and this type of course is now being rebranded and relaunched as Springboard with 6,000 college places available.  So the National College of Ireland, where I did my course, contacted me and asked me would I do up a profile and send a few pictures for the PR company.  And because I can’t say ‘no’…. of course, I did.  Heard nothing more for a week or two, and then the phone call came!  Would I like to go on Ireland AM?

So, then a whole set of questions started…. panic setting in….. what does one wear on TV at 7.45 am?  Make-up – do you do it yourself?  I have to be there for 7 am!

In the end it was decided that I should travel to Dublin the night before and stay close to the TV3 station.

So I travelled up last Monday evening and got to the hotel at about 8.30.  I know I only stayed one night…. but while the room was fine, etc.  how can Irish hotels still get away with serving such appalling food?  I didn’t even have breakfast in the place 🙂

Anyway it was early to bed and up early next morning!  On the road to the TV station by 6.40…. get lost, try not to panic! And arrive at 7 am.  I was surprised by the amount of activity about the place even at that time.

me standing at TV3 logo

The other guest for my slot – Garrett was already there – his wife, Erica, admitted she’d just had to come to share the excitement!  The staff at the station were lovely.  Luke was organising all the various slots – so we had to wait our turn to get our hair and make-up checked!  Total film star mode!  As I had chanced taking my camera along, Erica was nominated the photographer!

Garrett and I waiting in the 'green room'!

It was a first time for Mary Liz and Garrett too…. and the questions we were asking, must have made Luke and the floor manager laugh!  We all suddenly had notions that we were going to clash with the red couch!

Aidan Cooney was charming and made us all feel so relaxed.  I have to admit that once we started talking, I completely didn’t even notice the cameras!

me on TV!

My TV debut was over so quickly!  I think we were on for about 10 or 15 minutes, but it was all over in a flash!

It was an amazing experience.  Not only being on TV and learning just how many people watch TV at that hour of the morning!  Also to see what a small space the studio is!  The news desk, Vincent Browne’s area, and another desk all in the one section as that infamous red couch!

What’s next?  Who knows?

Thank you to the people at National College of Ireland, Caroline Moody PR, Mary Liz Trant (HEA) and all the folks at TV3 Ireland AM for the opportunity.

And major thank you to all the kind comments from our Facebook and Twitter fans – some of whom helped with the ‘what to wear’ and ‘make-up’ issues – and others just offered so much support.

Thank you all!

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We are still in recovery mode from a great day out at Tullamore Show on Sunday last!

Since we moved from Dublin, I have had some involvement with the show in one way or the other almost every year.

Alfie & Claire at Tullamore Show

I have attended as a spectator, I have been an organiser and now this year I was an exhibitor.

The Tullamore Show (fondly known as the ‘show’) is the biggest one-day agricultural show in the country – and I’ve even heard it said that it is the biggest such event in Europe!  I am not sure about that but last Sunday 60,000 people attend – all in just one day!  That is some amount of people.

The amazing thing about the Show is that it is organised entirely by a band of volunteers in Tullamore.  People give of their time and of themselves year, after year.  Many have been on the committee for more years than they care to remember .

When I worked with Offaly Enterprise Board I was part of the organising team for the Artisan Food and the Arts & Craft marquees that they sponsor.  This year, however, I was on the other side of the fence.

Stand at Tullamore Show

We took a stand in the Artisan Food tent.  Our first time to venture into this type of promotion for our free-range pork.  It was different being on a stand, rather than involved in the organisation. But then there were advantages because I knew the organisers too!

We had a great day.



Aching feet!

Aching back!

Fuddled brain!

But a good day!

Over 10 kgs of sausages were cooked up by Sarah (thank you, Sarah!)

It was wonderful to meet so many people who are passionate about food – both others who were exhibiting, and those who were attending.  We met some wonderful people.  We met people who keep their own pigs.  We met people who haven’t eaten pork in years  – we converted them!  We even met people that we had only known via Facebook… so it was wonderful to meet in person.

There was a great camaraderie among the exhibitors – lots of exchanging of tastings!  We got to taste lovely breads from Coolfin Bakery in Banagher, marvelous cheese from Mossfield Organic Cheese, gorgeous cakes from Sweet Creations, and then there were the major ‘pick me ups’ from The Hot Irishman!

If we met you at the show…. we look forward to hearing from you again!

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